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TWS Student Chapter Honors Wildlife Biologist Chris Anchor for Exemplary Service

Several years ago, Chris Anchor of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County saw a void of field experience on the resumes of many job applicants and decided to do something about it. Along with his colleagues at the FPDCC, Anchor offers intensive training to give students hands-on experience.

“The state of hands-on training at the university level has degraded, in many cases, to a handful of weeks at summer camp,” Anchor said. “Over the years I have sat on many interview panels and the common applicant, even with graduate studies completion, has limited, if any field experience. The FPDCC immersion attempts provide a student the opportunity to handle, trap, sedate, tag and take metrics, blood and tissue. The goal of this experience is to expose the student to wildlife techniques in a manner that is safe for the student and the study animal (deer, coyote, raptor, etc.).”

Anchor, a senior wildlife biologist, has positively impacted many students by hosting them for a weekend of learning at the FPDCC wildlife field office. The Purdue Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society has especially benefitted from the experience and honored Anchor as the first recipient of its Exemplary Service Award in February.

“Instruction is the most rewarding part of my employment,” Anchor said. “It is humbling to be recognized by the Purdue student chapter of The Wildlife Society.”

Purdue's TWS student chapter vice president Amanda Heltzel says Anchor’s honor is well deserved as the immersive weekend has aided students in choosing their career paths and also gaining knowledge about wildlife of various kinds.

“Chris has provided a welcoming, fun and honest first look for many Purdue students into wildlife research in the field,” Heltzel said. “Under his leadership, students have had the opportunity to spend time with professional wildlife biologists in the field where they gain hands-on experience capturing and working with urban wildlife. Beyond the basics of collecting data, Chris has taught students what to expect from a career in wildlife and how they can do a better job of working with others in the field, as well as emphasizing the safety of researchers and wildlife alike.”

“Every time I have attended the TWS trip to Cook County, I am inspired by Chris and the work that he and the other biologists at the field station do. Personally, my interests in birds, urban wildlife and disease ecology were all sparked by attending this trip as a freshman. These interests have certainly played a role in determining my career goals and deciding what I would like my career path to look like. Although other members of the TWS may not have interests in these topics, I’m sure there are many who would agree that interacting with Chris and working with him in the field has sparked other research interests or helped them develop a deeper sense of appreciation for the field of wildlife science.”

Heltzel’s experience is not an isolated one. Survey results after the most recent TWS visit included several other positive responses
  • "Chris is like a walking encyclopedia when it comes to whitetail and coyote knowledge.”
  • "This was my first hands-on experience working with live animals and I am glad I got the opportunity.”
  • “This trip gave me hands-on experience handling wild animals as well as exposing me to trapping and handling techniques. I also got to learn less well-known facts about the animals we were trapping along with how their populations affect the urban environment in terms of ecosystem services.”
  • “(The best part of the experience) was being so close to wild animals that are still alive and breathing, especially game animals that I’ve only been close to after they’ve been harvested.”
  • "The best part was being completely involved and being given the opportunity to learn by doing. Most of the time we just get to learn about wildlife techniques without ever actually practicing.”
  • “The trip to Cook County was very well rounded. I was always learning new information and there was never a dull moment.”
Purdue students are one of six groups that receive intense training at the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. Anchor has been with the FPDCC since 1981 and in his current role as senior wildlife biologist since 1986.

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